York, Clover schools add tech training programs

news@enquirerherald.comFebruary 8, 2013 

— Clover and York Comprehensive high schools will offer new technical training programs in manufacturing beginning this fall, in response to a need among area employers for more highly trained workers.

The programs:

• Clover High’s Career and Technical Center will launch a program called “mechatronics,” which combines industrial and mechanical skills with computer programming and controls.

Clover school district’s Assistant Superintendent Sheila Huckabee said the program will prepare students for “the new face of manufacturing – a clean, high-tech environment. ... Skilled manufacturing is taking hold in South Carolina, and that is a new and growing field.”

• In York, the Floyd D. Johnson Technology Center is kicking off a new manufacturing operations program that includes a total of five courses at the York career center and York Technical College.

Ron Roveri, director of the technology center, said the program was created with input and in partnership with western York County companies that employ trained manufacturing workers with high-tech skills.

“This whole major is industry-driven,” Roveri said. Employers “have said these are the skill sets that we are looking for.”

‘Mechatronics’ in Clover

Clover’s program, which was approved last month by the school board, will seek at least 30 students to enroll in the curriculum sequence when it begins in the fall, Huckabee said.

Huckabee said mechatronics focuses on the integration of mechanical, fluid, electrical and thermal systems; instrumentation; electronics; robotics; computer components; and control systems.

“It’s the intersection of a host of different technologies that students learn, and it makes them very adaptable, very flexible,” said Robert Johnson, director of Clover’s career center.

Huckabee said the program is ideal for students who have an interest in science and technology, have well-rounded skills and prefer to be on the production end of technology instead of design and planning. It is intended for those who don’t plan to pursue four-year degrees, she said.

The program, designed to be completed over four years, with one course each year, will include four one-semester courses. The course sequence begins with Introduction to Engineering and Industrial Technology, and is followed by three consecutive courses, Mechatronics I, II and III.

Huckabee said Clover is looking to find or hire a teacher who has the necessary technical knowledge to lead the program.

“I do think finding the right person is going to be a key,” she said.

The first-year startup cost includes $75,000 for a teacher and about $106,000 for equipment, plus consumables and repairs, she said. Equipment would run about $45,000 the second year, she said, and should be covered by a federal grant by the third year.

Certification in York

The York program, which would take at least two years – and in most cases probably three years – to complete, will include three courses at the Floyd D. Johnson center in York and two at York Technical College.

Classes at the Floyd D. Johnson center include Introduction to Careers in Manufacturing; Introduction to Quality Control, or Mechatronics; and Introduction to Machines and Forklifts, or Power Mechanics.

Two more courses offered at York Tech – where tuition of students in the program would be covered by the York district – are Introduction to Machine Technology and Introduction to Welding, he said.

Roveri said the program was created with input from area employers who have identified a need for specific skills.

“It will give those students who complete the program the background that these companies are looking for,” he said.

Tom Drumwright, human resources manager with Meritor in York, one of the companies that needs trained manufacturing workers, said the program resulted from a grass-roots effort. He said human resources managers began talking about the need for employees with certain skills.

“I think we have a responsibility to make sure our students are prepared for the career choices they make, and that’s what has driven this, to provide them with a better skill set,” Drumwright said.

Employers have been actively engaged in the curriculum development, he said.

“We’re very excited about it,” he said. “We think we’ve come up with something that’s going to make a difference.”

Drumwright said employers involved in the discussions have agreed to guarantee a job interview – not necessarily a job, because the need for workers depends on economic conditions – to students who complete the program, “which gives our involvement to the effort the entire way through.”

York will be able to offer the program with existing courses and staff, Roveri said, but it will need to “tweak some of the courses” to cover the use of certain types of control gauges, machinery and operations.

Roveri said the district wants to help students and parents understand that manufacturing careers have changed dramatically – evolving into clean jobs that require computer skills and other technical knowledge.

“Manufacturing isn’t like it was years and years ago,” he said. “It’s not a dead-end job.”

Roveri said companies that employ the workers have agreed to help train York teachers for about two weeks over the summer.

“They will train my instructors so they can in turn train the students,” he said.

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